Some Crucial Facts You Should Know About Wireless Speakers

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Modern wireless speakers come in all shapes and sizes. Finding the perfect model for your application can often be tricky. There is a flood of different names and terms describing loudspeaker performance. Also, each manufacturer publishes a large number of specifications, including “sound pressure level”, “dynamic range” etc. In this article, I will have a closer look at one of the most fundamental of these terms: speaker output power. This term is also known as “speaker wattage.”

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Some of the terms which speaker manufacturers publish often are misleading and do not necessarily give a good indication of the actual performance of the speaker . Next I will explain the “wattage” spec of speakers. This spec is one of the most basic and perhaps important specs to understand.

“Wattage” shows how loud your speaker can sound. Depending on your application, you can go with a small speaker tolerating only a few watts or a larger one tolerating several hundred watts. Many smaller home speakers only can be driven with a few watts power which usually is enough for a small room. If you plan to shake your walls then you obviously want to opt for a speaker that has up to several hundred watts. Most speakers will have increasing audio distortion as output power increases. Therefore, you want to pick a speaker that has higher output power than you will actually need. This will assure that you will never drive the speaker into areas of high distortion.

Wattage is either given as “Watts peak” which means the speaker can tolerate short burst of this amount of power or “Watts rms” which shows how much power the speaker can tolerate for a longer period of time. In the past, vendors have usually preferred listing the “peak power”. This number is higher than the average or “rms” power. However, “peak power” can often be misleading since there is no standard showing the amount of time that the speaker has to be able to tolerate this amount of power.

Music and voice is not constant in terms of loudness. As such the peak power rating is still important, although not as important as the rms power rating. Ideally the speaker will show both the rms and peak power rating. Having a high peak power rating will ensure enough headroom for power peaks which are common in music signals. The main reason is that music signals will have short bursts of high power which the speaker has to handle. Rms power is measured with a constant sine signal which hardly compares with a music signal in terms of the power envelope.

Please note that often the peak power that your amp can deliver to your speakers depends on the impedance of your speakers which is typically between 4 and 8 Ohms. Due to the limited supply voltage of your amplifier, the maximum output power will be half if you connect an 8-Ohm speaker than the peak power that the amp can deliver to a 4-Ohm speaker. Usually maximum power is specified for a 4-Ohm speaker impedance. However, ideally the manufacturer of your amplifier will tell which speaker impedance the amplifier can drive. Please note that some amplifiers cannot drive speakers with very low speaker impedance.

So we’re back to the same two words again: “small” and “wireless”. Given that the only reason why you’d want a wireless system is portability, it is imperative that any set of wireless speakers be small. After all, if you have to lug around a 10lbs speaker set, you’d much rather save some money and get a wired system instead.

Small wireless speakers can turn into one of the two things: a pathetic excuse of a speaker that delivers puny sound, has non-existent base, and screeches at every high tone, but, to its credit, is small and wireless. This is the norm. Seriously, when in the market for small wireless speakers, don’t expect your mind to be blown and your ears to ring with the mellifluous music. You’ll only end up being disappointed.

And the other thing? That’s when you do get surprised. When you turn on a tiny little pair of speakers, expect little, but get a lot. This happens rarely, for there are very few small wireless speakers on the market that can actually deliver such a performance. But it happens often enough for people like me to keep the faith and hope for the day when a pair of speakers will fit into my jeans pocket and will deliver enough awesome power to bring down the house.

Let’s take a look at the first category (that is: the small wireless speakers that barely pass muster). This is the sad corner where underperforming speakers are sent to after an appraisal. This category of speakers should be avoided, for while they may be small, portable and wireless, their sound is far too poor to be worth shelling out money for.

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